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London Olympics Information » About the Olympics » Olympics 2012 Sports and Disciplines » Athletics


Athletics, arguably, has been at the core of Olympics right from the beginning. History of Athletics or Track and Field can be traced back to the times of ancient Olympics. Running was the only sport during the first 13 Olympics. Earliest records indicate that in 776 BC a stade race, similar to the modern day sprint, was contested on a track of roughly 192 metres. Pentathlon, boxing and wrestling were later added to the games in 708, 688 and 680 BC respectively. Also, one more event, unimaginable in today's context, was the hoplitodromos (race in armour), a foot race the length of two stadia (380 - 400 m) wherein the runners competed, dressed in full armour.

Over a period of time a lot of events were added, and as of today there are 46 events in the track and field, which broadly include running, walking, throwing and jumping. A combination of speed, strength, stamina and a good race strategy is the key to success. The distances for running and walking races range from 100m to 50 km. Marathon and walking races are run on public roads and running events take place inside the stadium on a 400 m oval track. Running requires flat surfaces, while obstacles are set up for the hurdles and steeple chase competitions. Some of the popular names in track and field are Jesse Owens who claimed four gold medals in 1936 Berlin Olympics Games by winning the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and anchoring the US relay team to a win in the 4x100 meter relay; Carl Lewis who won 10 Olympic medals, including nine gold medals and one silver, in a career spanning from 1979 to 1996; Michael Johnson of USA who won four golds in the athletics event - anchored the winning 4x100 relay team, won the 200 m and 400 m in 1996 Atlanta Games and won the 400 m in the 2000 Sydney Olympics; the latest sensation Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the 100m, 200m and was a part of the winning 4x100 relay team.


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